Research NewsMicrobiology

Possible New Weapon for Insect Control

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Science  26 Jun 1998:
Vol. 280, Issue 5372, pp. 2050
DOI: 10.1126/science.280.5372.2050

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Scientists have identified a promising new group of toxins that might eventually be used instead of or in combination with those from their old standby, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). On page 2129, an insect toxicologist and his team report the discovery of proteins that the bacterium Photorhabdus luminescens uses to kill a wide variety of insects, including common pests, and demonstrate that the toxins work when eaten by an insect pest--a prerequisite for use in genetically altered plants. Combining the new toxins with Bt could ease the problem of insects becoming resistant to Bt toxins, in part because an insect is very unlikely to become resistant simultaneously to two toxins that kill by different mechanisms.